A pesky weed is becoming a growing problem for producers in Alberta.
Wild oats is not so quietly sowing away yields across the prairies and is now also seemingly adding resistance to many of the chemicals that designed to eliminate it.
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry crop information specialist Harry Brook noted the province has started to notice that particular weed is more often taking over in many fields.
“It’s getting to the point where you can drive down any road in August and pick out the fields that have resistant wild oats,” he explained.
“With the recent release of the 2017 provincial weed survey, it shows resistance is climbing in both new weeds that are resistant to herbicides as well as existing resistant weeds.”
Wild oats — which annually hits prairie farmers in the pocketbook through losses in yield and dockage along with lower grades and quality — can really grab a foothold in a field if left unchecked.
“It can really dominate in a field. I’ve spoken to farmers that have had 30 bushel crops of wild oats in a field, all because they ignored the fact there may be a resistance issue,” Brook stated.
“Wild oats also seems to be something that not much time, effort or attention is being spent trying to deal with it. The reality is it’s getting worse and there isn’t much being done to slow it down or stop it.”
For Brook, a big issue in wild oats continuing to climb in numbers are current agricultural practices.
“Right now, we are so dependant on glyphosate (better known as RoundUp). We do have other products to burn down crops, but they also recommend to mix it with glyphosate. We already have glyphosate kochia (another leafy weed),” he said.
“With the continued spread of wild oats, I’m worried that continued over use of glyphosate will result in wild oats becoming resistant to the really lone remaining product that can control it. Manitoba has wild oats that are resistant to nearly all herbicide groups except glyphosate and when you start getting populations like that, you wind up with a super weed.”
Solutions to the situation include switching to crop products that can survive glyphosate as well as avoiding cultivation of fields.
“Zero till in itself reduces the viability of wild oats, but if you cultivate and bury it, the seeds can remain viable for years until they are brought to the surface,” Brook said.
The wild oat seeds, due to its waxy seed coat, can stay dormant under ground until it reaches close to the moisture and sunlight near the surface.
“We have to try and reduce the huge seed bank load of wild oats and if the seeds are on the surface, they don’t survive very well. They will germinate and die or get consumed by beetles as an example,” he added.
“The fear is that we will continue to go with the easy, simple herbicide solutions until such time as we have no more tools left in the tool box to deal with it.”